Former Arkansas and Ole Miss Head Football Coach Houston Nutt filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday, seeking compensatory and punitive damages for breach of contract. The suit named the University of Mississippi, the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation, and The Board of Trustees for Institutions of Higher Learning as defendants. The allegations in the lawsuit are particularly critical of Ole Miss Head Coach Hugh Freeze, who replaced Nutt in 2012.
The Ole Miss football program has faced increasing scrutiny from the NCAA for alleged recruiting violations. The NCAA served a Notice of Allegations in January of 2016. Later in the year, Laremy Tunsil, a 5-star high school prospect who signed as part of the 2013 class and currently plays for the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, admitted receiving money from the coaching staff. Nutt’s lawsuit alleges that agents of the University, including current Head Coach Hugh Freeze, have wrongly stated that the violations took place during Nutt’s tenure.
Nutt alleges in his complaint that the violations did not occur during his time as head coach, but rather during that of Coach Freeze. Nutt alleges that Coach Freeze and the defendants in the suit spread a “false narrative” to the media and potential prospects intentionally, despite knowing it was false. At the time, Ole Miss’s highly ranked 2016 recruiting class was nearing its signing day, and Coach Freeze feared that the class would crumble and recruits would sign elsewhere if his staff was implicated in major violations, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit says the “false narrative” violated the contractual terms of Nutt’s Severance Agreement with Ole Miss, which included a provision prohibiting Ole Miss “from making any statement relative to Coach Nutt’s tenure at Ole Miss that may damage or harm his reputation as a football coach,” according to the suit.
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